Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

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Sheldrake
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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Sheldrake » 31 Dec 2017 15:07

Aber wrote:
Sheldrake wrote:
Oh and AGRA is short for Army Group Royal Artillery - a brigade sized artillery formation (five or six regiments) usually assigned one per army corps.


For clarity, this is where the British concentrated medium artillery - 4.5 and 5.5 inch guns, etc.


The AGRA was based around medium artillery but included field and heavy artillery. There were usually two to four medium regiments (mainly @ 16 x 5.5" guns but some regiments with 8 x 5.5" and 8 x 4.5" medium guns ). These were the main firepower of the AGRA plus a heavy regiment with a battery of 8 x 7.2" Howitzers (for hard targets) and one 8 x 155" Guns for long range targets. In NW Europe an AGRA would also typically include a field regiment or two. These were often attached to divisions that needed extra support. E.g. an armoured division had eight manouvre units, but only six field batteries. Armoured and tank brigades did not have integral artillery. Airborne divisions only had one regiment with puny 75mm howitzers. In NW Europe an AGRA might also take one or more HAA Regiments under command. @24 x 3.7" Heavy AA guns. 3.7" Heavy AA guns in the ground role had the same range as a 5.5" gun and very effective time fuses. Oh and and a RASC Company to bring the ammunition and return salvage.

Survey regiments weren't part of the AGRA, but were an essential component in the system These located German batteries and provided a common survey grid and meteorology information. An apparently trivial matter but key for the accuracy of predicted fire.

AGRAs came with command, staff and communications to manage artillery command and control for major fire plans. Every fire plan meant calculating long lists of target date, firing schedules, ammunition allocation. Targets traced accurately on paper overlays for 1:25,000 maps and circulated to everyone HQ and unit engaged. That took a lot of brainpower and comms bandwidth.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 03 Jan 2018 15:55

There were some interesting comparisons between the British & US Army artillery C3 methods in WWII. I don't have much time to today to add to the conversation, but will briefly look at a couple points.

Sheldrake wrote:
Delta Tank wrote:
Sheldrake wrote:
loan wrote:... One of my old gunnery instructors an Australian Vietnam veteran explained it. It works fine but if could take half an hour while the FDC decided whether you really needed five rounds of proximity or whether you could do just as well with three rounds of HE, by which time the target had gone.


The instructor misidentified the location of the problem. In the Viet Nam era the problem was not in the FDC but in what we in the 1970s - 1990s called the Fire Support Coordination Center. This was a section within the maneuver units operations group, the S-3 or G-3 that was responsible for for fire planning and coordination from all arms, the weapons internal to the maneuver battalions like mortars or the regimental cannon companies of WWII, the field artillery of the division & corps, helicopter fire support in the case of the Marines, tactical air support, naval gunfire, ect... These guys (I was one of them for a couple years) fall down through conflicting policies laid on by competing commanders. The resulting decisions in sorting this out can clog things up. One example is the requirement in Viet Nam to run tactical air strikes ahead of artillery fires. A desire at the top to not waste fuel and bombs on aborted missions led to a order that if air support was aloft it was to make the support attack before artillery. This led to situations where the maneuver unit waited five, ten, twenty minutes for a air strike when artillery could have responded in sixty seconds or less. The commanders overseeing their FSCCs could have intervened to violate the conflicting guidance (=orders), but often failed & left the situation to unroll along convoluted procedural lines. My personal take is this reflects the muddy thinking at the top (Westmorland) but thats another conversation.

This problem did in Viet Nam, & still did in the 1990s reflect in the artillery unit operations, the FDC, but it did not originate there.

During my artillery career the US Army and Marines were still shooting themselves in the foot, sometimes, with over or under thinking things in the FSCC. There was in my view a constant tension between officers who had strong situational awareness and could intuitively grasp the essentials, and those who followed established lines of thought, doing things by the numbers as it were. Which predominated in any particular HQ reflected the personality of the commander & his views. There was a ongoing movement to 'fix' fire support coordination but progress seemed slow. I do recall a Major who effective ended his career when as chief of a Fire Support Coordination Center he repeated botched the maneuver groups fire support through rigid thinking & inflexibly following the fire plan. No small satisfaction in seeing that happen.

Another problem in coordinating fires in Viet Nam were units from other commands entering and operating in another units area. These ops were often poorly coordinated or not coordinated at all. Special ops units were good at this, ARVIN & US Army/Marines frequently wandered into each others fires by error or arrogance. Fratricide rates were uncomfortably high in that war for US forces and there were more than few bad moments each day in the FSCC/-3 as they tried to sort out complete chaos.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Sheldrake » 03 Jan 2018 17:20

Sheldrake wrote:
Aber wrote:
Sheldrake wrote:
Oh and AGRA is short for Army Group Royal Artillery - a brigade sized artillery formation (five or six regiments) usually assigned one per army corps.


For clarity, this is where the British concentrated medium artillery - 4.5 and 5.5 inch guns, etc.


The AGRA was based around medium artillery but included field and heavy artillery. There were usually two to four medium regiments (mainly @ 16 x 5.5" guns but some regiments with 8 x 5.5" and 8 x 4.5" medium guns ). These were the main firepower of the AGRA plus a heavy regiment with a battery of 8 x 7.2" Howitzers (for hard targets) and one 8 x 155" Guns for long range targets. In NW Europe an AGRA would also typically include a field regiment or two. These were often attached to divisions that needed extra support. E.g. an armoured division had eight manouvre units, but only six field batteries. Armoured and tank brigades did not have integral artillery. Airborne divisions only had one regiment with puny 75mm howitzers. In NW Europe an AGRA might also take one or more HAA Regiments under command. @24 x 3.7" Heavy AA guns. 3.7" Heavy AA guns in the ground role had the same range as a 5.5" gun and very effective time fuses. Oh and and a RASC Company to bring the ammunition and return salvage.

Survey regiments weren't part of the AGRA, but were an essential component in the system These located German batteries and provided a common survey grid and meteorology information. An apparently trivial matter but key for the accuracy of predicted fire.

AGRAs came with command, staff and communications to manage artillery command and control for major fire plans. Every fire plan meant calculating long lists of target date, firing schedules, ammunition allocation. Targets traced accurately on paper overlays for 1:25,000 maps and circulated to everyone HQ and unit engaged. That took a lot of brainpower and comms bandwidth.


Hi Carl,

Thanks for the clarification. I suspect we may be violently agreeing. The procedures and technology in both the US and Commonwealth armies had a high degree of flexibility and, more similarities than differences - which is why they arms co-operated very effectively during the world wars and post war conflicts. For all of that I have championed the British fire control system the only guns in WW2 that an FOO (troop commander) was automatically authorised to fire were those of his own troop, and only then if they were not on a higher priority mission for the BC or CO.

I also accept there are big differences between COIN operations and a general war. Though I am not sure whether much of of the modern sensibilities about avoiding collateral damage and negative PR were that apparent in Vietnam.

What the British system did was to instill a culture predisposed towards action, and provide the manoeuvre arm with liaison teams with the best tactical situational awareness, and the rank to accept the responsibility for making difficult decisions under pressure and the authority to give orders.

Part of this is training. As a junior artillery officer joining a battery, there were soldier who could do every technical job in the battery better than I could. Someone had been doing every task longer and specialised in their tasks. The army had trained its men well. That changed when I became an FOO, because 90% of the job was about the support arm and anticipating what might be needed next. Officer training, based on the infantry platoon commander's job, is a much better starting point to learn to be an FOO than ten years on the guns. Even then it was only after attending the all arms tactics course I appreciated how much there was to the job.

It the Second world war the artillery battery in direct support of a battalion brought that battalion a cadre of a major and three captains, all with little less experience as the company commanders. These did more than process calls for fire. With the right relationship between batteyr and battalion, they were an enhancement to the conceptual power of that unit. They were an extra officer. When the going got tough they would step forward and take over what was left of a platoon or a company. I am not suggesting that NCO FOOs could not do so, but there was less of an expectation for them to put themselves in harms way doing something outside their trade, any more than, say the MFC.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Sid Guttridge » 03 Jan 2018 19:19

Hi Mori,

I am glad that you agree.

Sorry to state the obvious, but sometimes somebody has to point out the elephant in the room, if no one else has yet.

Yup, the British and US forces swapped lots of equipment and ideas - i.e. Mustang, Sherman Firefly, Liberty ships, Radar, etc., etc.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 06 Jan 2018 06:07

Sheldrake wrote:... That changed when I became an FOO, because 90% of the job was about the support arm and anticipating what might be needed next. Officer training, based on the infantry platoon commander's job, is a much better starting point to learn to be an FOO than ten years on the guns. Even then it was only after attending the all arms tactics course I appreciated how much there was to the job. ...


In the USMC its been the practice since the early 20th Century to send all the newly minted 2d Lt to a extended 'Basic Course' after the brief officer candidate school & before they went to their specialty school. Typically this runs 4-6 months & is focused company level operations, with a overview into higher levels. Two thirds of the training was hands on or practical application. At the end of it we had more training as platoon leaders than many armies put into their regular infantry officers education. As I wrote, everyone went through the Basic School, future personnel officers, pilots, artillery, motor vehical, armor, whatever...

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Sheldrake » 06 Jan 2018 16:42

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
Sheldrake wrote:... That changed when I became an FOO, because 90% of the job was about the support arm and anticipating what might be needed next. Officer training, based on the infantry platoon commander's job, is a much better starting point to learn to be an FOO than ten years on the guns. Even then it was only after attending the all arms tactics course I appreciated how much there was to the job. ...


In the USMC its been the practice since the early 20th Century to send all the newly minted 2d Lt to a extended 'Basic Course' after the brief officer candidate school & before they went to their specialty school. Typically this runs 4-6 months & is focused company level operations, with a overview into higher levels. Two thirds of the training was hands on or practical application. At the end of it we had more training as platoon leaders than many armies put into their regular infantry officers education. As I wrote, everyone went through the Basic School, future personnel officers, pilots, artillery, motor vehical, armor, whatever...


How long is the "brief OCS?" To be fair to my own country's army, RMAS regular commissioning course is 44 weeks long and configured around infantry platoon and company operations. The All arms tactics course I referred to was aimed at captains and majors in command of, or about to command, infantry companies or armoured squadrons. It was a different level of course with a support battlegroup of kit and soldiers to play with, and lots of input from an international selection of students. E.g. a Moscow trained Indian Armoured Corps officer talked about how to fight a battle with a T72 company.

The point I was trying to make is that while it is possible to skim the surface of the pool of military thought labelled "tactical use of firepower" there is a lot of depth to this topic.

In depth training is one the features of the USMC that is widely admired. However, It was luxury not exercised for the British and US Armies of Second World War which had to grow rapidly - and then fill the replacement pipeline. That was even truer for the enlisted men whose training tended to focus on a single specialty.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Richard Anderson » 06 Jan 2018 20:25

Sheldrake wrote:How long is the "brief OCS?"


Marine officer candidates are sourced from college students/graduates and enlisted Marines via two routes. The Platoon Leaders Course (PLC) is for college students. They attend two six-week sessions between school years or a single ten-week session usually between junior and senior year. The alternative is the Officer Candidates Course (OCC) offered as a ten-week session to college graduates and Marine enlisted.

The Basic School (TBS) conducts the 28-week Basic Officer Course (BOC). Officers selected for infantry MOS then attend the 12-week Infantry Officer Course (IOC) at TBS. Other specialty MOS schools are similar in length.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 10 Jan 2018 03:45

Richard Anderson wrote:
Sheldrake wrote:How long is the "brief OCS?"


Marine officer candidates are sourced from college students/graduates and enlisted Marines via two routes. The Platoon Leaders Course (PLC) is for college students. They attend two six-week sessions between school years or a single ten-week session usually between junior and senior year. The alternative is the Officer Candidates Course (OCC) offered as a ten-week session to college graduates and Marine enlisted.


A decade or two in the past the two increment PLC source was eliminated in favor of a single increment course between the college students junior and senior year. After a few years this was criticized from several directions for decreasing the numbers and quality of the college students passing through the program. The reasons were complex & I won't pick at them here. Suffice that there was a lot of pressure from below to restore the two increment PLC program.

Annapolis graduates and the occasional rare Westpoint grad attended a brief six week orientation course. Navy ROTC had their own summer "Bulldog" program that was very similar to the PLC. The largest difference being the NROTC were usually obligated to several years of active service after college graduation. The PLC officer candidates had no obligation once they had completed the course. After they completed the PLC course they either signed a contract for officer service, or a document declining service. There may have been a obligation for inclusion in the inactive reserve but I can't recall clearly.

Richard Anderson wrote:The Basic School (TBS) conducts the 28-week Basic Officer Course (BOC). Officers selected for infantry MOS then attend the 12-week Infantry Officer Course (IOC) at TBS. Other specialty MOS schools are similar in length.


The length of the Basic School has varied over the past century. Originally established in the WWII era it was a brief orientation course that soon expanded into a "School of Application" where the new minted Second Lts received hands on training with weapons, communications equipment, quartermaster affairs, & other items of immediate need in WWI. In 1982 my class went through a six month ciriculum, which was still mostly practical application. Roughly two thirds of the hours were hands on training. The syllabus was oriented towards preparing the Lt for service in a rifle company, but had a lot of extras such as 8+ hours of military law, overviews & application in artillery, supply, armor, embarkation onto & off ships, air operations, civil affairs, medical both preventive and trauma. Leadership training had a lot of role playing time where the instructors taught us the silly s..t nineteen year old PFCs would spring on us concerning their final, marital, emotional, & alcohol and drug problems.

At that time the IOC was only six weeks. I went to the Army Artillery Officers Basic Course @ Ft Sill for another five months of finishing school. After some 14 months of PLC, TBS, AOBC I was at last allowed to join a fleet Marine Force unit & practice the sundry skills exposed to me.
Last edited by Carl Schwamberger on 10 Jan 2018 04:03, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 10 Jan 2018 04:02

Sheldrake wrote:[...

In depth training is one the features of the USMC that is widely admired. However, It was luxury not exercised for the British and US Armies of Second World War which had to grow rapidly - and then fill the replacement pipeline. ...


In part, tho the US Army had the luxury of mobilizing and training units for 2-3 years before they went to combat. Officers taken into active service in 1940 or 1942 often had trained at three different ranks & successive set of command levels and staff jobs before they saw combat in 1943 or 44. In the case of enlisted men perhaps 20% were in specialties eliminated between 1940 & 1942 & were retrained. i.e: horse cavalry or anything else to do with horses in the quartermaster, artillery, ect... Others had been in specialties that were met with reduced requirement and retrained. i.e.: Coast and Antiaircraft artillery. The reorganization of 1942 peeled over thousand men out of each of the existing divisions & a portion were retrained at new specialties.

The USMC went from under fifty thousand active and reserve service men in 1940 to 600,000+ in 1944. I'll leave it to others to decide if that was rapid growth or not.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Richard Anderson » 10 Jan 2018 04:58

Carl Schwamberger wrote:A decade or two in the past the two increment PLC source was eliminated in favor of a single increment course between the college students junior and senior year.


I wouldn't know Carl, I went through the two-increment PLC in 1974 (was at Quantico when Nixon resigned) and 1976. :D My DI's were all Vietnam vets. :D

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Richard Anderson » 10 Jan 2018 05:02

Carl Schwamberger wrote:The USMC went from under fifty thousand active and reserve service men in 1940 to 600,000+ in 1944. I'll leave it to others to decide if that was rapid growth or not.


The Army went from 189,839 in FY 1939 to 8,267,958 in FY 1945. 43.55-to-1. 8-)

The Marines from 19,432 to 474,680. 24.43-to-1. 8-)

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 10 Jan 2018 13:26

Richard Anderson wrote:...

The Army went from 189,839 in FY 1939 to 8,267,958 in FY 1945. 43.55-to-1. 8-)

The Marines from 19,432 to 474,680. 24.43-to-1. 8-)


& your conclusion is?

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 10 Jan 2018 13:34

Richard Anderson wrote:
Carl Schwamberger wrote:A decade or two in the past the two increment PLC source was eliminated in favor of a single increment course between the college students junior and senior year.


I wouldn't know Carl, I went through the two-increment PLC in 1974 (was at Quantico when Nixon resigned) and 1976. :D My DI's were all Vietnam vets. :D


What! You don't read the Gazette cover to cover each month ????

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Richard Anderson » 10 Jan 2018 17:35

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
Richard Anderson wrote:...

The Army went from 189,839 in FY 1939 to 8,267,958 in FY 1945. 43.55-to-1. 8-)

The Marines from 19,432 to 474,680. 24.43-to-1. 8-)


& your conclusion is?


It was rapid growth. :lol:

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Richard Anderson » 10 Jan 2018 17:36

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
Richard Anderson wrote:
Carl Schwamberger wrote:A decade or two in the past the two increment PLC source was eliminated in favor of a single increment course between the college students junior and senior year.


I wouldn't know Carl, I went through the two-increment PLC in 1974 (was at Quantico when Nixon resigned) and 1976. :D My DI's were all Vietnam vets. :D


What! You don't read the Gazette cover to cover each month ????


Nope. I never took a commission, much to my regret now.


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